Paddles, Poppers, and Pickerel
This year, I’ve been lucky enough to already pick up a several new obsessions, and we’re not even half way through the season. If you’ve read Wayne’s article on Turkey hunting, you’ll understand one of them without any further explanation, and if not, I strongly recommend you check it out. I’m going to use this time to explain the other two.
Anyone who’s spent some time with me, knows how passionate I can get just talking about fishing for Chain Pickerel. While I’ve often heard others consider this fish to be a garbage fish or something they don’t pursue on purpose, the fact of the matter is that the Pickerel is a magnificent sport fish and a very energetic fighter. Your average Pickerel weighs around 2 pounds and is about 20 inches long. On rare occasions you can catch these mini-pike up to 30 inches long and I’m not exaggerating when I say you could put your whole hand in their mouths.
Throughout my life, I’ve spent countless hours in canoes. As long as I can remember, I’ve fished rivers and brooks each spring and summer from a boat. Until this year however, I had never been fortunate enough to fish from a kayak. Sure, I’ve been in a kayak here and there, but the experience of hooking onto a fish and having it pull your whole boat has been something I’ve never experienced. For the past few years, especially since having children, I’ve found it harder and harder to get out with friends and go fishing in the canoe. Because of this, a kayak seemed to be the solution. An extremely mobile boat that I can get out on the water quickly and easily, even by myself during those extremely limited windows.
In April, Wayne and I took the plunge and each purchased a brand new kayak. These are far from top of the line boats, but we’re excited nonetheless. The only thing holding us back from trying them out immediately was the late winter. In late April the lakes in the area were still locked with ice, and the rivers were all at flood level. Our time would come, a 12 hour river run on May 3 was an excellent christening for both of our kayaks. We both learned a lot about how our kayaks work while travelling a mere 47KMs (29.4 Miles). Did I mention this was our first time using these kayaks, or any kayak for such an extended period? But alas, that’s a story for another day.
This weekend, in fact on Mother’s Day, I decided to take my kayak and hit my favourite lake in search of pickerel. I’ve fished here many times, and except for one summer when the Beavers made a mess of the place, I’ve caught pickerel every single time. This day was no exception, but what I learned this day would blow my mind. I paddled out to the eastern side of the lake, a traditional hotspot, and began to try a number of lures. Throughout much of the summer, pickerel are extremely aggressive and will pretty much bite anything you throw at them, but this early it’s sometimes tricky to find something they are interested in. Today was no exception. I tried lure after lure, cast after cast and didn’t manage a single bite for nearly two hours. Being Mother’s Day, I decided it was time to head for home. Before doing so, however, something in my tackle box caught my eye. It was a newly purchased Popper lure. I figured “what the heck” and hooked it up.
Now I’ve never fished with a popper with any luck at all, but just like most others, I’ve seen it on TV. I know the basics of it, cast it, jerk it, and retrieve it. For the first time ever, I tried this, and actually had a strike. This aren’t just your normal strikes however, these pickerel were crazy about this popper! On the first cast, a small pickerel, approximately 12 inches long came up fast and with a big splash grabbed the lure. For the first time in 2014, fish on! Maybe I’m onto something here! The next cast, as if possessed, a large fish jumped completely clear of the water like a torpedo. Unfortunately, this strike was off a bit and sailed completely passed the lure. What a rush! Next two casts, no action, but on the third yet again, big splash, fish on! We’re definitely getting somewhere here. It wasn’t three or four more casts before I had my third fish of the day, the largest of the day. These things were on a mission, and that mission was to eat my popper! Such aggression is not uncommon for pickerel, but having such an amazing and visible strike is really a thriller. I’ve seen them take a fly in the past, but even though both are top water, the ferocity that these fish were assaulting the popper takes it to a whole new level. Unfortunately, as it was Mother’s Day after all, I decided at this point to head for home.
Whether or not I’ll be able to regain this magical experience with a popper lure remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure, it will remain near the top of my list, and near the top of my tackle box. Paddles, Poppers, and Pickerel, a fantastic trifecta of early obsession for 2014.
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